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Who ‘Makes’ the Shaman?: The Politics of Shamanic Practices among the Buriats in Mongolia

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The number of shamans among the Buriats of Dornod in Mongolia has been dramatically increasing since the mid 1980s, when the gradual dissolution of the socialist system and Soviet domination took place. By placing the shamanic practices in a context of historico-political changes, the paper questions what constitutes a shamanic practice and what makes and what unmakes a shaman nowadays. The paper examines the shamanic experience of the Dagdan shaman and his relationship with his community, in order to illustrate the complex and dynamic nature of shamanic practice. While the locals’ knowledge of spirits (ongons), the belief in their own lineage ongons and the local standards for moral disposition all control and limit a shaman’s power and prestige, the shaman attempts to supersede the local standards by restoring symbolic capital and by seeking power and recognition outside of the community. The search for power and recognition outside of the community becomes the shaman’s arena for creating, transforming and acting out multiple identities: ethnic, national and personal.


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